During the second half of Thursday’s program, longtime ASO guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson joined the orchestra for Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto, known as “Emperor.” Ohlsson played with an intense tenderness, striking the keys with finality but also gently. As with the opening symphony, the ASO played the slower movements masterfully, making these gradual-growth pieces take on a new dimension. Being away from the hall for so long, I thought I had most missed the tenacious attack of the ASO playing out with triple-forte force, screaming through their instruments, but Thursday I lived for the quiet, tender moments that frequently arose. Ohlsson’s lullaby encore, the second movement to Beethoven’s “Pathetique” piano sonata, was a fitting end to a long-needed reunion.
How long does this feeling of joy and gratitude for simply sitting in the red velvet seats of Symphony Hall, listening to a live concert, last? This overwhelming sensation, of course, shouldn’t be confused with an uncritical eye. But the pure elation to be once again a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra audience was enough to cover any minor performance quibbles.
The impact of an extended absence, filled with great uncertainty and anxiety about every trip to the grocery store or distanced meeting with friends, can not be discounted. Atlanta needed this. How long will this feeling last? Why not forever?
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
8 p.m. Sept. 9. Additional performances at 8 p.m. Sept. 10 and 11. $34-$019. Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta. 404-733-5000, atlantasymphony.org.